Intuit’s SnapTax app, available for the iPhone and Android phones, relies on image-recognition technology to read salary and withholding information from the W-2. Users answer a few questions and review their return for accuracy before submitting it electronically by tapping a File Now button.
Intuit charges $15 for each filing through the app, and it says that completing a return can take as little as 15 minutes.
The app is intended for consumers who are increasingly using their mobile phones for everything, including shopping and banking. Taxes are just the next step, although it may take some getting used to for people who are accustomed to preparing their returns with a pencil and calculator or on a desktop computer.
SnapTax offers the possibility of doing taxes in atypical locations, but the reality is likely more mundane, said Colleen Gatlin, an Intuit spokeswoman.
“We don’t expect that people will be filing on the train,” she said.
To use SnapTax, individuals must earn less than $80,000, while married couples must earn less than $100,000. The limit for individuals is lower than the $100,000 cap set by the Internal Revenue Service for those taxpayers using the 1040EZ but not filing by mobile phone. Intuit says it wants to make sure the app is not used by people who should be maximizing their savings by itemizing deductions, which is not allowed on the 1040EZ.
Additionally, 1040EZ filers must have no dependents and be under age 65.
Image-recognition technology, which for years was considered unreliable, is increasingly being put to use in online services. Technical advancements and the spread of smartphones have provided new opportunities for it. The technology is also being used to translate signs from Spanish into English, scan bar codes in stores and help solve Sudoku puzzles.
SnapTax is among a number of mobile phone apps related to taxes. H&R Block’s app lets users ask questions of the company’s tax professionals, Shoeboxed helps users organize their spending by photographing receipts, and Intuit’s TurboTax app estimates what users owe in taxes.
“We are in favor of anything that would make it easier for people to file their taxes,” said Sara Eguren, a spokeswoman for the I.R.S.